Hyperbolic outrage won’t keep the lamp of freedom burning

President Donald Trump’s divisive campaign rhetoric on immigration, along with the administration’s horrible rollout of his executive order, sparked protests across the country. That spark has been fanned and fueled into a raging flame by opponents and opportunists who have misrepresented what the executive order actually does just to make political points and raise millions of dollars. This is not what keeping the lamp of freedom burning bright is supposed to look like.

Separating genuine concern and proper protests from manufactured outrage and hyperbolic hysteria is proving to be difficult in the digital age.

Many opponents rightly pointed to the Statue of Liberty as they made their case against the travel ban. While pointing to the lamp of freedom Lady Liberty raises in her right hand, they ignored what she holds in her left. Lady Liberty resolutely holds a tabula ansata in her left hand – a keystone-shaped tablet used to evoke the idea of order and the rule of law in upholding democracy.

This particular order is hardly the raging fire or constitutional crisis it is made out to be. President Trump paused – for 90 days – travel, immigration and refugee acceptance from nations with known jihadist organizations.

The order sets a cap on refugees coming into the country at 50,000 annually, which is the historic average of how many refugees have entered the U.S. from 2001-2015. It does not target our Muslim friends. It does not apply to legal permanent residents or green-card holders. It does, however, empower the secretaries of state and homeland security to make exceptions, which would certainly apply to translators, allies and operatives who have bravely served alongside U.S. forces.

President Trump is right to shine a light on national security. But he should also turn his gaze to the lamp of freedom in Lady Liberty’s right hand.

America must never allow concerns for national security to collide with American compassion in a way that undermines the bedrock of our ideals.

Working with Congress, the administration must establish a system to prevent bad actors from entering our country illegally while creating a compassionate gateway, for those fleeing tyranny or pursuing freedom, to enter America legally.

From our founding, and with but few periods of exception, America has opened its arms in order to provide a second chance at life, to millions of huddled masses who yearned to breathe free. And they breathed. And the nation has prospered.

Rather than pouring gasoline on the angry sparks and fear-driven flames currently dominating the executive order debate we should look to the compassionate lamp of freedom and the rule of law represented in Lady Liberty. The statue was originally, and appropriately, titled, “Liberty Enlightening the World.” That goodness is what has and what will continue to make America great.

For Sutherland Institute, this is Boyd Matheson. Thanks for engaging – because principle matters.

This post is an edited transcript of Principle Matters, a weekly radio commentary broadcast on several radio stations across the country. The podcast can be found below.

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Border security isn’t the problem – Mero Moment, 8/12/14

People cross the Rio Grande into Big Bend National Park in Texas.

People cross the Rio Grande into Big Bend National Park in Texas.

This post is a transcript of a 4-minute weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations.

James O’Keefe is known for his short films exposing liberal hypocrisy and corruption. His most famous film was an undercover recording of corruption inside the offices of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). O’Keefe’s revealing video footage resulted in ACORN shutting down its operations.

His latest video shows O’Keefe crossing the U.S./Mexico border unmolested by U.S. border patrol. He did it twice – the second time dressed in Army fatigues and wearing a Halloween mask of Osama bin Laden. His point was to show how unprotected our southern border really is.

The border between the United States and Mexico runs nearly 2,000 miles. Picture standing on the shores of Imperial Beach, California, and walking east/southeast 2,000 miles to the Gulf of Mexico. That’s a lot of ground to cover. Most undocumented immigrants enter the United States at population rich spots – like the border at Tijuana. Understandably, U.S. border patrol is concentrated in those areas. Not so much in the desert areas.

But there’s James O’Keefe – I’m sure a very well-meaning fellow – standing in the middle of nowhere, on the Mexican side of the border, videotaping how he can saunter across the shallow river about 20 feet to the Land of the Free on the other side. He looks into the camera and says, “There’s not a border agent around for miles.” Read more

Immigration benefits both immigrants and working-class Americans, study says

streetworksSome have argued that modern-day immigrants – referring to Mexican immigrants who are “low skilled” – are harmful to working families because they take away jobs from working-class families. Recent research suggests the opposite is in fact the case, at least as far as keeping a job is concerned.

A study done by two economists and published by the National Bureau of Economic Research recently reported that the high amount of geographic mobility of Mexican-born immigrants reduced the likelihood that a low-skilled American loses his or her job in a bad economy by about 40 percent. Why would this be the case?

The study found that Mexican-born immigrants are much more likely to find out about differences in pay between geographic areas in America and move to higher-paying areas in response. This makes a great deal of sense if immigrants without much education or training in “high-skill” jobs are coming to America primarily to work, which many are. Further, in the context of undocumented immigrants, it makes sense because they are ineligible for unemployment insurance, meaning that remaining in an area with a bad job market caused by a local recession is simply not financially feasible for many immigrants.

So what happens when an economic downturn hits in a given area? Typically, employers would be forced to lay people off to compensate for decreased economic activity. But what if, in response to a local recession, a significant number of employees simply moved on to better pastures, like many immigrants do? It means that people who remain behind are less likely to lose their jobs, because the employees who have left allow employers to reduce their costs in response to an economic downturn with fewer layoffs.

In short, because immigrants – especially undocumented immigrants – are so sensitive to economic conditions and are willing to move when those conditions worsen in any given area, native employees are less likely to be fired when a recession hits. This means a greater amount of financial security and protection for both working Americans (who are less likely to be fired) as well as immigrants (who end up going where jobs are available).

Of course, this point is not an argument in favor of the current immigration system, which is clearly broken and needs to be fixed via policy reforms. It simply means that when those reforms do finally get put in place, working families will not see their livelihoods destroyed en masse by “low-skilled” immigrants who come into the country and “steal” their jobs. Rather, to the extent that low-skilled immigrants come into the country, they will provide greater job security to working Americans during economic downturns by their willingness to pursue greater job security themselves by moving out of bad job markets into good job markets.

Such is the prosperity-producing power of the free market.

Why ‘enforcement-first’ tactic won’t work for immigration

Photo: Gage Skidmore

Senator Marco Rubio (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

The following post is a transcript of a 4-minute weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations.

I’m following with interest the criticisms being directed at United States Senator Marco Rubio. Rubio is a conservative Republican from Florida who defeated an establishment Republican incumbent in 2010. Back then, candidate Rubio was an “enforcement-first” backer of immigration reform. Today, Senator Rubio argues that efforts to legalize undocumented immigrants already living in the United States have to precede any other component of immigration reform.

Talking to Sean Hannity, Rubio explained why enforcement-first wouldn’t work, he said,

That was my position: Let’s do the fence first and then let’s worry about it. Here is the problem and why I kind of felt that the other way may be better. The 11 million that are here now illegally, we want to know who they are as soon as possible. We don’t want that number to become 12, 13, 14. Because we cut this off, we say you had to have been here by December of 2011. You have to be able to prove that you were here by December of 2011. Well, I don’t want this word to get out that once [we] are done securing the border, then [we] are going to legalize people, because then you will have a rush.

For his opinion Rubio has been castigated from The Heritage Foundation in D.C. to the caucuses of Iowa as a supporter of amnesty for his work to pass the Senate immigration bill. I can relate. When Sutherland Institute came out in favor of state-based comprehensive immigration reform for Utah, I was called just about every name in the book and, mostly, my conservative credentials were questioned.

Read more

The right thing to do: conservatives and comprehensive immigration reform

As the The Huffington Post reported recently, immigration reform will be at the top of the post-inauguration agenda for Senate Democrats, emboldened by last week’s elections. It is also critical for conservative Republicans to stand behind this central American issue.

I am the leader of the most conservative public policy group in Utah, Sutherland Institute. I also helped lead the fight for comprehensive immigration reform.

Why? What is “conservative” about comprehensive immigration reform? Why would a conservative political group risk offending its loyal base of support over such a third-rail issue? More importantly, why should other conservative political organizations, especially other state-based think tanks, pick up the gauntlet and follow our example in pressing for intelligent, comprehensive immigration reform?

The short answer is that it is the right thing to do, and the prudent thing to do – meaning it’s the conservative thing to do, if you are an authentic conservative.

To read the rest of Paul Mero’s article on The Huffington Post website, click here.

Incompetent referees and bad laws

Like millions of other Americans watching Monday Night Football this week, I was in disbelief. It didn’t matter what team you were rooting for, if you had even one good eye to see with, you knew that the losing team got robbed by an obviously wrong ruling on the field. The call was so obviously incorrect that every commentator, especially former players and retired referees, were dumbfounded and nearly speechless.

Most people who follow sports know that the referees’ association in the National Football League went on strike weeks ago and refuse to work until they get a better contract. The NFL, for its part, has failed to successfully negotiate new contracts. In the place of seasoned referees, the NFL hired high school and community college referees to work its professional games. Folks, that’s like asking a kid with a new chemistry set to judge Nobel Prizes in science – it’s not that the kid isn’t interested in the subject, it’s that he’s not capable of judging anything at that level of skill and talent.

The results have been mayhem, confusion, contradiction, inconsistencies, too many missed calls, too many calls altogether and, very often, decisions made from total ignorance. If you’re playing the game, you never know what to reasonably expect – the game feels lawless – and because you never know what to reasonably expect, you begin to purposefully violate rules you otherwise would not. A culture of lawlessness creeps into the game.

Read more

Smart words on immigration from Condoleezza Rice

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice delivered an incisive and well-received speech yesterday covering several topics at the Republican National Convention. I would like to highlight just one gem about immigration. Rice’s view on immigration closely matches what Sutherland has long advocated: a policy that ensures public safety, protects freedom and promotes economic prosperity.

Rice said:

We must continue to welcome the world’s most ambitious people to be a part of us.  In that way, we stay young and optimistic and determined.  We need immigration laws that protect our borders, meet our economic needs, and yet show that we are a compassionate nation of immigrants.

Earlier in her speech, Rice described the benefits of such an immigration policy: Read more

The Utah Compact, immigration and Sutherland’s role


How has Sutherland Institute influenced the immigration debate in Utah? Last Friday was the one-year anniversary of the Utah Compact – a document that outlines a reasonable approach to addressing the immigration issue in Utah.

At an event to recognize the compact’s anniversary, community leaders spoke about the importance of the compact, and we interviewed many of them to understand their perspective on the role Sutherland played in its adoption. Watch this video to hear what they said:


What do you think about the Utah Compact?


Reality squashes farmer’s plan to hire local labor


With unemployment hovering around 9 percent, some have argued that if we could just “deal with” (read: “round up and ship out” or “starve out”) undocumented immigrants, there would be enough jobs to go around. After all, they’re taking up jobs that citizens would be happy to do, right? Well, not exactly.

The rub is that enforcement-only immigration policies do not solve real problems, even if such policies make the hard-liners feel better about life. Too often, enforcement-only policies just make matters worse. Read more

A glimpse of right-wing extremism


Former Arizona State Senator Karen Johnson doesn’t like the Utah Compact. She calls it “amnesty.”

You might recall that I wrote, and Sutherland recently published, an updated essay with an immigration twist, titled “The Poison of Extremism.” In it I wrote,

It would be hard to categorize right-wing extremism as completely unintelligent. Any public servants on the receiving end of an extremist’s tireless pen would find themselves deluged in paper, argument after argument, reference after reference, citing minutiae and detail that would make an accountant squirm. But, at some point, fact begins to turn into fiction. Inevitably, it seems, every­thing is motivated by evil and conspiring minds. Perhaps because of its angry mind or because of its self-righteousness, right-wing extremism has a per­sistent habit of turning the corner from objective fact to malicious fantasy. … The sad effect of this “crying wolf” is that real evils and real conspiracies often get overlooked because the stri­dency and zealousness of extremism burdens society’s collective ability to discern wisely and rationally.

In support of this accusation, I give you Exhibit A: